Animal Prosthetics: False Limbs for Elephants, and Silicone Where You'd Least Expect It

By Rachel Cernansky | March 11, 2009 1:43 pm

babyelephant.jpgLest ye think humans are the only recipients of prosthetics, here’s proof otherwise: Mosha, a three-year-old elephant in Thailand, has just successfully received her second prosthetic leg. The pachyderm was just a baby when she stepped on a landmine and lost part of her front leg. (Unfortunately, this is not a rarity in Thailand, whose borders with Cambodia and Myanmar are populated with elephants and littered with landmines.)

After her injury, she was brought to a sanctuary, where the staff didn’t have much hope for her. But an amputation expert who normally works with humans fitted her for a prosthetic, which not only helped her walk, but even changed her social life.

Other elephants at the sanctuary, who at first rejected Mosha, began to accept her once she had regained a fourth limb. After eating 200 pounds of food a day, she outgrew her old leg and needed to be fitted for a new one, which is made of plastic, metal, and sawdust (yes, sawdust).

Amazingly enough, Mosha is not alone in the world of animal prostheses. Lovey, a horse in Arkansas, deserves special mention after a prosthetic successfully replaced her leg, which had been caught in a fence last year. Given that horses are usually shot the instant they break a leg, Lovey’s limb is a striking achievement.

Then there’s Fuji the dolphin, who became sick at an Okinawa aquarium several years ago. Her tail started to rot and had to be amputated—but without a tail, Fuji couldn’t swim. After the first two attempts to attach a prosthetic failed,  engineers found success in the third design. With a tail made from silicone rubber, Fuji began swimming again as if the tail were her own.

And over in Romania, Uzonka the stork received a prosthetic bill after the original was broken in an assault. And finally, there’s our personal favorite: the researcher who mortgaged his home in order to fund the invention of “neuticles,” or prosthetic testicles for dogs. Greg Miller said the point of the makeshift testicles was not to enable them to breed again, but just to restore their “self-esteem.” Kind-hearted soul? Or just crazy? You decide.

Related Content:
Discoblog: Text Messaging: The New Way to Track Elephants
80beats: Elephant-Lovers Worry About Controversial Ivory Auctions in Africa
80beats: Memories of Hard Times Might Help Elephants Survive Global Warming
ScienceNotFiction: Dr. Terminator: The Prosthetics Designer Who Makes Sci-Fi Sculptures

Image:  Flickr / Tambako the Jaguar

  • Gregg Miller

    Neuticles were invented to provide the neuter hesitant pet owner an option when it becomes necessary to alter their beloved pet. The tradional form of neutering was created in 1802 and it involves the permanent removal of the pets body part. As a result, it was become out culture to accept emascualtion of our pets as being the norm. Over 277,000 pet owners Worldwide have Neuticled their pets by over 28,000 participating facilities in all 50 states and 51 countries Worldwide. Fact is, pet owners are now neutering with Neuticles that simply would not have neutered before and as a result pet over population is being reduced and those Neuticled pets are living longer, happier and healhtier lives. If that is “crazy” then the writer of this piece must think a cure for cancer would be insain.

  • Vicky

    I am looking to find a prosthetic for a growing calf on his 2 back hoofs.

    He had frost bite over the winter and lost the 2 back hoofs. Who can I go to to help me find something for him. I’ve had to bottle feed him and care for him for several months now.

    Its hard for him to get around due to one of the hoofs did grow like a hoof nail back but its causing him more harm than good. If I could find something for him to get around on it would be great.

    Any suggestions?



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